Neither A Borrower

Direct Answers - Column for the week of November 4, 2002

I moved from Los Angeles to Europe with my husband and children. My sister's husband left her with three children. She sent an e-mail today asking me to "give" her $1000 so her lawyer will continue representing her.

My sister already owes her lawyer $9000. She owes my other sister $5000, and she never talks about paying it back. She is trying to convince a judge she needs more money from her ex so she won't have to move. Her ex-husband has offered 65 percent of his paycheck, which is about $550 per week.

It sounds like a lot, but my sister has taken out second mortgages on her home and her house bill is $1500 a month, not including taxes. I don't know if she is in debt, or if she is just used to being able to pull money out of purse whenever she wants and not having to budget. I know she rarely cooks and usually takes the children out for fast food.

She asked for government aid, but they say her income is too high to qualify for any help. My husband is worried if we give her $1000, she will assume she can keep asking. Do you have any suggestions?

Trish

Trish, you are concerned about your sister's welfare and would like to respond to her needs, but your husband understands the actual situation.

Your sister goes through money as if it is water. She doesn't budget or live within her income. The equity in her home has vanished. Her ex gives her most of his income, and it is still not enough.

Your sister engages in magical thinking. She is trying to make reality conform to her habits and outlook. Offering her financial help will only encourage her belief in magical solutions.

The obvious solution is to sell the house, reduce the debt load, and bring expenses in line with income. She may need to move to another neighborhood and make other lifestyle changes, but that is what is called for.

Give her unlimited emotional support and guidance, but don't subsidize her flight from reality. That may sound harsh, but it is the kindest thing you can do for her.

Wayne

Soap Box

My mother is quite the religious evangelist and political zealot, and it's getting in the way of our relationship. She insists on discussing her views every time we speak, and she assaults me with unsolicited information by way of letters and one-sided telephone rants.

It doesn't work to ignore her newfound fanaticism or request we not discuss religion and politics. Saying I have to get off the phone is most effective, but I am still up nights being upset. If I request an end to the alarmist messages, she insults me or sends a nasty note.

After a period of silence, she'll do something like send me an engraved Bible with cash inside and an inscription from "Your ever-loving mother." A dear friend died recently, and I sent a copy of the obituary to my mother. She, in turn, sent me a religious diatribe having nothing to do with my loss. I was devastated.

Renee

Renee, in the back of your mind is an idealized picture of domestic life, like one of those Currier & Ives lithographs called "The Happy Family." It's not going to be like that with your mom.

Your mother isn't talking to you so much as she is talking to all those people who won't stand there and listen to her, for like all zealots, she creates a loathing for her beliefs. She likely treats everyone this way, but they have an advantage. They are not her daughter.

As you free yourself to leave her presence, you will realize how you gave her power, and she will realize it is in her power to have you stay or to send you away.

Tamara

About The Author

Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at www.WayneAndTamara.com.

Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com.

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